CCL Helps Engineer the World’s First River Solar Snake
CCL has played a key role in a government-funded project that will bring renewable, reliable energy generation to Lebanon. Not only is this ground-breaking project the first solar farm in Lebanon, where the state electricity provider currently generates only 50% of the power the country needs, the development is also the first structure of its kind in the world to be constructed above a river.
The Beirut River Solar Snake, so-called because of the scale-like effect of its photovoltaic panels, currently winds along 300 metres of Lebanon’s major waterway. The structure, which is the result of collaboration between CCL and other forward-looking construction and engineering specialists, is set to stretch 6km by 2020 and ultimately generate 10MW of clean energy – power for 10,000 homes. Providing a guaranteed energy yield of 1.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, the pioneering 'BRSS' solar farm is good news for the Lebanese people, who have braved blackouts for decades.
“The Beirut River solar project is environmentally friendly, and it is expected to reduce 1,076 equivalent tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.”
Ziad al-Zein, Public Relations Coordinator at the Lebanese Center for Energy
A New Dawn for Energy Harvesting
As part of the government's National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) to install 200 MW of solar farms by the turn of the decade, CCL carried out the design and construction of the primary structure of this ambitious project. In Phase One, 31 post-tensioned concrete beams were designed by CCL Engineering to span 30 metres over the water without the need for any submerged pillars or columns, avoiding obstructions in the river itself. The beams were constructed by Derviche Haddad PPB Structures, one of Lebanon's longest-established contractors and a member of the CCL group of companies. This challenging feat of engineering sees the Snake’s solar panels suspended on steel frames which are supported by the post-tensioned beams over an area of approximately 325 x 30 metres (roughly 10,000m2).
It's not just CCL breaking new boundaries, the innovations in engineering are mirrored in the cutting-edge technology that brings the BRSS to life. It has a full weather station with data logging capacity, and incorporates a remote monitoring system to aid troubleshooting from afar. A digital display will also be erected to show the amount of electricity produced at different times, the amount of carbon emissions being negated and the environmental benefits of the project. Perhaps most impressively, the project is itself renewable by its very nature, with each stage funded by the value of electricity produced in the previous phase.
Other Key Features of the Solar Snake:
• Generation of 1,655 megawatt hours per year (MWh/yr)
• Use of 3,600 polychristalline PV panels
• State-of-the-art structural design, unique in the Middle East, combining a primary concrete structure and a secondary steel structure
• 60 inverters with an expandable topology, designed in a decentralised manner
• High-level, high-tech security, with 3-metre fencing around the plant and CCTV cameras, in addition to around-the-clock security personnel
• 100% availability, thus able to run 365 days of the year without interruption, as the maintenance of the plant can be carried after sunset
Shining a Light on Solar Efficiency
More than merely a new power production channel, the Beirut River Solar Snake stands as a beacon of hope for the Lebanese people – proof that Lebanon is investing in energy infrastructure.
“The purpose of the project is not only to produce energy, but to be a showcase for the public.”
Ramzi Abu Said, President of the Lebanese Solar Energy Society and Managing Director of Asaco
The project has already raised interest in renewable energy nationwide, says Pierre El Khoury, head of the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation (LCEC), who believes the project has stirred private companies into action and resulted in solar power equipment capable of producing 30MW being installed across the private sector since the Solar Snake was originally touted in 2013. He suggests that solar projects alone could create between 200MW and 250MW of energy over the next five years. If this turns out to be the case, the Lebanese can put their dark days behind them and look forward to a bright, sustainable future.